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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION ?

August 24, 2002

Happened to the "Theology of Liberation"? The Poor Flock to Pentecostal Churches -- Liberation Theologian: Squatter Movement Still alive

Altenkirchen/Willingen, August 23 (idea) -- What happened to the "Theology of Liberation"? In the seventies left-wing theologians tried to mobilize the poor in Latin America, but today their "grass root communities" have vanished.

"Liberation theology took sides with the poor, but the poor took sides with the Pentecostals." This is what the Brazilian evangelical leader Valdir Steuernagel told an international gathering of theologians in Germany. Pentecostals are known for vibrant worship and church life but not for political activism.

According to Steuernagel the Protestant percentage of the Brazilian population rose by more than 70 per cent to 15.5 per cent between 1991 and the year 2000. Today, more than 26 million Brazilians are Protestants. Steuernagel -- chairman of the international board of World Vision - was speaking at a joint meeting of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance and the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians in Altenkirchen August 16 - 18.

He said that although the "theology of liberation" was born out of the good idea that the church had to care for the poor it was based on an illusion. Its promises had not been fulfilled; there was still widespread corruption, injustice and poverty in Latin America.

Another Brazilian, the Roman Catholic liberation theologian Paulo Suess, rejected the idea that the theology of liberation had failed. He told 150 participants of a world mission conference in Willingen, Germany, that the Indio and squatter movement had indeed made progress. Before they occupied property they always held an ecumenical worship service.

Suess demanded that the church forfeit all privileges and cut all ties with positions of power in society. The church should not aim at bringing the poor into its presence but rather be present among them: "Only through the poor will the church know what sin really is."

The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Konrad Raiser, lashed out at the neo-liberal world economy. The international finance system showed a striking resemblance with a "pseudo-religious doctrine" and a "religious cult", he said.

150 theologians from 18 countries attended the mission convention in Willingen August 18 - 21, where the first ecumenical world mission conference on German soil took place 50 years ago.


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Evangelical news agency idea. Wolfgang Polzer
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